Owner Kijwana Thompson hosted her back-to-school drive one week after her bikini car wash fundraiser. Credit: Kijwana Thompson

CHATHAM — Tensions flared on a South Side Facebook group earlier this month after a local business hosted a bikini car wash to raise money for school supplies.

RavVishing Hair owner Kijwana Thompson hosted the fundraiser Aug. 14 in the parking lot of her shop, 72 E. 75th St. She’s organized the event for the past five years, gathering friends, family and stylists to “wash the cars and have a good time,” Thompson said. 

Thompson buys back-to-school gear, such as bookbags and school supplies and surprise gift cards, for families. She uses the proceeds from the car wash as reimbursement, she said. She hands the items out to families who drive by or stop at the business, she said.

This year, Thompson’s team spent about $2,000 on school supplies, gift cards and hair-braiding services for families heading back to school, and they raised about $600 from this year’s car wash, Thompson said.

“We come out as family and friends and help each other because we’re doing it for a good cause,” Thompson said. “We never really take many pictures or videos or just tell a lot of people about it, but it’s something that we just do for the kids every year.”

RavVishing Hair, 72 E. 75th St. Credit: Kijwana Thompson

Thompson hosted the August event without incident. She received approval from the local police districts, provided that she “didn’t block traffic or the sidewalks and kept the event on private property,” Thompson said. 

Four days later, the Concerned Citizens of Chatham Facebook page posted about the car wash, telling members they reported Thompson’s business to the city’s business department.

Worlee Glover, a decades-long Chatham resident who runs the Facebook page, compared the event to the Starz series “P-Valley,” which tells the stories of people who work in a strip club in a fictional Mississippi town.

“There were reports this weekend that some young ladies thought they could turn 75th Street, Chicago into Chucalissa, Ms with a bikini car wash,” the post said. “It was alleged that they were operating in the parking lot of Ravvishing Hair 72 E. 75th.” 

But the most recent complaint the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection received about RavVishing Hair was in March 2020, “and neither of the complaints mention ‘bikini car wash,’” spokesperson Elisa Sledzinska said in a statement. 

Glover said in an interview he’d never heard of the bikini car wash. A friend tagged him in a Facebook post alerting him about the car wash days after it happened, he said.

Glover posted about it on Concerned Citizens because he was worried about what kind of business the bikini car wash would attract and that traffic might block neighbors from reaching their homes, he said.

“The comments [on my friend’s post] made it sound like this was more than women just washing cars,” Glover said. “I spoke with someone who witnessed it, and they said it wasn’t a bikini car wash. It was more than that. A bikini car wash to raise funds for school supplies left a question in my mind. Why did you have to go to those extremes to raise money for school supplies?”

Neighbors flocked to Glover’s post. Some linked the event to issues in the community. 

“My building is a few blocks from there. Chatham has gone down,” one person commented. “It use to be a beautiful neighborhood, now it’s a hot ghetto mess.”

Others rallied to support Thompson, her business and the car wash. 

“I see zero criminal activity for their fundraiser for the back-to-school event,” one person commented. “How about we start worrying about ACTUAL criminals who are taking away from our communities instead of the people who are giving back?!? This world is Ass backwards … .” 

Thompson also commented on Glover’s post, saying RavVishing Hair has hosted the event in the community for years with permission from police. She asked for suggestions for next year’s fundraiser “to move the needle forward.” 

“As a prominent Black-owned small business it has always been my pleasure to service the Chatham community,” Thompson posted. “It is my life mission to UPLIFT and empower my community, family, and friends! … I partner with like-minded individuals who want to see change and are actively on the journey to make a difference!”

Glover shot back, telling Thompson to bring the matter to a community meeting.

“You know where you need to go the Park Manor Neighbors meeting and you know the contact so thank you for this diatribe,” Glover replied.

Thompson said the post and some of the comments were “defaming her character and business,” but she was pleased to see friends and strangers support her.

The characterization of the event was unfair, and most of the women who participate wear coverups or shorts, Thompson said. If Glover would have approached her instead of posting on social media and “talking about my business as if I’m running a hoe house or something,” she would have been willing to explain the purpose of the car wash.

Instead, Glover’s backlash makes Thompson “want to go bigger,” she said. 

Next year, Thompson’s prepared to “become a community leader” and ask neighbors to come and support the fundraiser, she said.

“Instead of bashing your people, go and speak to people and get to know them to see who they are before you make your assumptions,” Thompson said.  “If he would have come and said something to me, maybe something could have changed for next year. Now, I’m going to go harder. I’m going to get in tune with the Chatham area.” 

Kijwana Thompson hosted her back-to-school fundraiser Aug. 20. She’s prepared to “go bigger,” next year, she said. Credit: Kijwana Thompson

This won’t be the first or the last time Glover’s Facebook page receives attention, he said. He hopes Thompson keeps her promise next year, he said. 

“I’ll see her at the Park Manor Neighbors community meeting and have a discussion about it,” Glover said. “She has to take some steps back and reach out to the community. The next time she wants to do it, let them know.”

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Atavia Reed is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, covering the Englewood, Auburn Gresham and Chatham neighborhoods. Twitter @ataviawrotethis